Entering Saturday, the White Sox faithful were being told that the Cardinals were looking like the favorite to land Luis Robert with only a late night game being pitched by Mike Pelfrey as comfort. The script flipped abruptly and to the White Sox’ benefit on both fronts in dramatic fashion.
First it was announced that the White Sox had prevailed in their bidding war with the Cardinals. And although Cardinals twitter sees this as a continuing trend where they have silver medaled in pursuit of a prized free agent–Jason Heyward (which is looking like a blessing if you like St. Louis), David Price, Max Scherzer, etc.–this was still an upset. Dexter Fowler’s current contract would represent the biggest in White Sox history by approximately $15 million.
For a lot of the White Sox fan base, Robert represented more than just himself, but as a referendum on how serious the organization is about actually investing in building a winner. In and of himself, Robert is simultaneously a tremendously exciting talent, and an exaggerated version of what can make the prospect game so dangerous.
Only 19-years-old, Robert was last seen annihilating the Cuban league to the tune of .401/.526/.687, walking more than he struck out. There’s a good chance he can stick in center, but even if he doesn’t, as a physical specimen, Robert looks like he should be able to hit for enough power to play in a corner too. Indeed, MLB.com has already run video comparing Robert to Yoan Moncada.
And therein lies one of the pitfalls of a player like Robert. The temptation to compare him to Moncada is obvious–young, Cuban, monster athlete, and hey, his last year in Cuba wildly outclasses any stat lines Moncada put up! But Moncada is dominating AAA whereas we have yet to see how Robert will adjust to leagues with much more velocity than Cuba has to offer these days, with the ubiquitous fear of an inability to make sufficient contact to access his prodigious tools.
Whenever the signing is finalized and after whatever coaching and adjustment period is resolved, Robert seems likely to start in Low-A. Perhaps the old White Sox philosophy would have yielded an aggressive assignment to Winston-Salem, but frankly, if Zack Collins’ polished college bat was given a chance to repeat at High-A, it would be surprising to see Robert thrown into the deep end in that fashion. The new approach is decidedly more measured, and justifiably so given how badly hyperaggressive promotions worked out for such a long period of time.
However, while recognizing that there is a lot of risk and development left that Robert will need to do before we can start penciling him in next to Tim Anderson, Moncada, Collins, and others as a staple of the next White Sox playoff team, the excitement around Robert is also based on very real things. Maybe comparing him to Moncada is facile, but he really is a monster who has demonstrated superlative baseball skill against professional competition.
Based on what is known about Robert, he appears to slide in behind only Moncada and Michael Kopech in the White Sox system, looking comfortably like a Top 25-ish global prospect, and would have easily been a Top 5 pick in this summer’s draft had he been eligible.
After the dollar-for-dollar tax for exceeding the international bonus pool penalty is assessed, it looks like Robert is going to cost the White Sox approximately $50 million. But, ask the Red Sox if Moncada’s $60+ million signing was worth it as Chris Sale continues to mow down hitters with extreme prejudice. Being able to scoop a talent like this without losing a draft pick or trading away significant talent is a rare opportunity, and the White Sox came out on top, injecting even more top end potential into the system even before they grab some more at the 11 pick in June.
What’s more, given the bust rate on most prospects, adding further depth of impact prospects generally is a good idea, and best player available is obviously the ideal philosophy. Here, the White Sox were able to grab the best player available and he fits a glaring organizational need. The Garcia Revolution notwithstanding, position players generally and the outfield specifically were areas of obvious weakness for the White Sox. For $50 million, the White Sox may have just added a middle of the order, impact bat for six years.
It’s gratifying to see the White Sox win a bidding war, but the organizational upside got that much more impressive with the stroke of a pen.
Oh, and then Mike Pelfrey dominated the Mariners as the White Sox scored sixteen runs, their highest single game outburst since 2014.
Saturday was a good day.
Lead Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports